The one word that came to West Elementary School principal Becky Siever was “gratitude” Sunday during a day of celebration of the school’s new addition.
The official grand opening of the school’s addition came nearly 10 weeks after the school opened in August. The state-of-the-art addition doubled the school’s size, said architect Bill Morris with Kaatz, Binkley, Jones and Morris Architects.
He said the new space brings 14 new classrooms, a computer lab, new gym, cafeteria, art and music rooms. The school was built in 1950 and had two previous additions in the 1970s and 1990s.
Most of the school’s nearly 600 students showed up for the ceremony with their parents, along with members of the Wilson County Board of Education and about 14 county commissioners. Director of Schools Tim Setterlund was part of the ceremony, as well as project manager Larry Fatheree.
“We are so thankful for this new addition,” Siever told the crowd. “The teachers and staff here are so phenomenal and our my heroes. They had 24 hours to set up their rooms, and they did it.”
She said the school became overcrowded about two to three years ago.
“We had 10 teaching teams, and teachers were teaching in all sorts of situations,” said Sievers. “We had classes with 40 students, and teachers were teaching in portables, hallways, the stage, the steps and in the lobbies. They taught through drilling, blasting, painting and jack hammers.”
Yet, said Sievers, “they never complained.”
She thanked the parents for their support throughout the overcrowding and subsequent construction. She told Setterlund he was her “rock and voice of reason” when “critical decisions” were made about the start of the school year. She also lauded the school board members for their “vision” for the addition and the county commissioners for “voting for the funding.”
Setterlund echoed Siever’s sentiment about the school board’s vision to work toward the addition.
“This addition will serve the community well,” he said.
He then praised Siever for her attitude throughout the transition and construction.
“There was not a single time Becky didn’t have a smile, a clipboard and great attitude,” he said. ‘She’s a positive, upbeat and confident leader.”
School Board Chairman Don Weathers said no one was surprised at all the hard work the teachers, staff and administration put into getting the addition prepared for students. He thanked Fatheree.
“It was a difficult process to make an old building look like a new building,” he said. “Now it’s time to kick into gear for the learning process. We welcome you to this new facility.”
Fatheree (known as Papa to the students) was at the school nearly every day during the nearly two-year construction phase.
“It was a lot of responsibility to take on a big project like this,” he said. “I love everyone of my ‘grandkids’ here.”
He also thanked the county commissioners for the funding.
Music teacher Jennifer Terhune led the chorus in “It’s a Beautiful Day,” and then a Celebration of Gratitude video was played on the new high tech screen that descended from the ceiling. The six-minute video showed students thanking those who made the new wing possible.
The ceremony concluded with refreshments and an open house with tours.